Good & Natural Bacteria - Growth Products

October 8, 2009 by Rick

Grwoth Prod group

At The Landscape Show in Orlando last week I met up with the providers of the good bacterial and natural plant growth products that help us grow Florida Friendly Plants in a sustainable way that is good for the environment and works well with the locally produced compost we use for potting media. These Bacteria subtilis organisms continue to grow in and around your plant roots in your home landscape and protect the roots from fungus and disease.

I met with Claire Renenberg, the founder and the microbiologist  behind Companion and other natural products we use. Here is a link to an article on Riverview Flower Farm and the Good Bacteria we rely on.

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Natives for Your Neighborhood

October 5, 2009 by Rick

A very informative site is being developed to help you determine what might grow in your environment. Natives for Your Neighborhood (beta)

Gardeners looking to integrate wild species into their landscape for the benefits of attracting butterflies and birds to the garden will find this tool helpful. The images are clear and the information insightful.

Corkystem passionflower This is the native passion vine that is well behaved. Be careful where you plant the pretty Passiflora incarnata. It suckers and sprouts up far from where you plant it and become a dominant invasive plant in your gardens and your neighbors.  

The site helps you figure out what your preexisting habitat was before it became subdivision on deep sand fill dirt. Be aware that the natural soil is gone from the subdivision as drainage and water shedding was improved and retention has been altered and moved to a central site when the bulldozers and dump trucks created the streets and home sites. This means that what was growing on the site previously will not perform the same way if you try it again. Always consider Right Plant - Right Place weather you design your garden with natives or other Florida Friendly Plants that attract wildlife and are more attractive to gardeners. Look around similar neighborhoods for plants doing well in settings similar to your own. You won't have to look far. Take a digital camera with you and capture local plants you would like in your yard. Discuss the plants with other gardeners, neighbor, friends, or your local County Extension agents whose job it is to help you get it right.


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Backbone Plants for the White Garden

September 4, 2009 by Rick

Varigated Flax Lily

Variegated Flax Lily


Variegated Devils Backbone


Jewels of Opar

The White Garden is popular for many folks who want to enjoy their garden in the twilight and evening hours. This is especially needed in the shorter days of fall, winter and spring when the weather here in paradise is why we live in Florida and enjoy it so much .Variegated Flax Lily, Devils Backbone and Jewels of Opar are three of the most dependable Florida Friendly Plants you can use in your garden. They live from year to year with few pests. Use them with repetition in your design. Plant individual plants, clumps of the same white plant or drifts of the same if you have a large area. The white areas will glow in the twilight as you stroll from patch to patch when colorful flowers in between will not show up.



 White and Ivory Fountain Grass also add movement, height and bright flowers to the white garden.

Livingstone Daisy Mezoo Red works as a drought tolerant groundcover to give you the white garden effect.

White Pentas standout in the twilight in the White Garden and do double duty as perennial favorites in the Butterfly garden.


White flowering annuals like impatiens, begonias, petunias, vinca and others can be used for the same effect. If you spend most of your time enjoying your garden in the evening then white plants and flowers may be just the ticket.


Ray White Petunias. The best petunia for Florida. Read more here.



Cora White Vinca. Disease resistant variety that made growing Vinca in Florida possible again.

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Turn that Brown Thumb Green

August 19, 2009 by Rick

Gardening Basics

As Penny Carnathan, Tampa Tribune Garden Writer - The Dirt, is fond of saying about one of her gardening friends. "Her thumbs are so green she can grow rocks".

Some folks rely mostly on organics. Why do they work so well for these green thumbs? Plant-soil-microbe-fungus relationships are highly complicated and studied but the truth is science has a hard time quantifying and isolating the tremendous number of complex interactions involved. We do know quite a bit about many interactions. We know that the good fungi and bacteria outnumber the bad many times over and when good fungi and good bacteria loose their overwhelming advantage things can go wrong. Compost and organic matter support good fungi good bacteria good nematodes and many other good microorganisms and earthworms with the good bacteria in their hyperactive gut. Too much salt based fertilizer upsets the balance and kills the good guys that are working in the organic system.

Compost and Organic Matter support the good micro organisms that naturally control bad nematodes. Most of the nematodes in the world are good guys. Nematodes account for 90% of the living multi-celled organisms on the planet yet you can't see them with the naked eye. They are really small but interrelated to the natural processes in more ways than we will ever know. So you have to take it on faith or experience that relying on organic processes will help turn your brown thumb green. Here is the scoop on Nematodes for Bedding Plants in Florida.

In contrast to gardening in soil rich in organic matter, we can grow plants in our nutrient poor sandy soils that have very little organic matter. This is where you need to add timed release salt based fertilizer. This is always more cost effective than liquid or fast release 6-6-6 granular that only seem cheap. Don't feed your plants a 3 month's supply of the cheap stuff only to have it wash away in one rain when you can give them a 3 month supply of timed release fertilizer in one application that releases a little with each irrigation. and not pollute the downstream environment!

Pot-in-Pot Landscaping is a great way to turn a brown thumb green. You should try this and report back on the color of your thumb. Ask away and we will answer questions to get you on the right garden path.

9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping

We share through numerous posts our enthusiasm and experience as long-time Florida gardeners and horticulturists. Our hope is that your gardening efforts will be successful and enjoyable.  We share ways to make your yards and patios beautiful while following the University of Florida's Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping:

1) Right Plant, Right Place: Plants selected to suit a specific site will require minimal amounts of water, fertilizers and pesticides.

2) Water Efficiently: Irrigate only when your lawn needs water. Efficient watering is the key to a healthy yard and conservation of limited resources.

3) Fertilize Appropriately: Less is often best. Over-use of fertilizers can be hazardous to your yard and the environment.

4) Mulch: Maintain two to three inches of mulch to help retain soil moisture, prevent erosion and suppress weeds.

5) Attract Wildlife: Plants in your yard that provide food, water and shelter can conserve Florida’s diverse wildlife.

6) Manage Yard Pests Responsibly: Unwise use of pesticides can harm people, pets, beneficial organisms and the environment.

7) Recycle: Grass clippings, leaves and yard trimmings composted and recycled on site provide nutrients to the soil and reduce waste disposal.

8) Reduce Storm water Runoff: Water running off your yard can carry pollutants, such as fertilizer, pesticides, soil and debris that can harm water quality. Reduction of this runoff will help prevent pollution.

9) Protect the Waterfront: Waterfront property, whether on a river, stream, pond, bay or beach, is very fragile and should be carefully protected to maintain freshwater and marine ecosystems.

More details can be found here:

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To Pinch or Not To Pinch - When is the Question

August 16, 2009 by Rick

The answer is detailed on our web site on the Successful Gardening page under Maintenance by the need to do so and the reasons. Recent strong windstorms topple many fast growing soft stemmed plants like Coleus and Persian Shield.

Remove a few at time 

Time to take this coleus growing in partial shade down a bit at a time to stop it from flowering and accentuate it's shape and strength.

Flowering buds for removal

Look for the flower buds which appear at different stages depending on the coleus variety.

A good length to remove

Pinch a few tips each visit to your garden and sculpt and shape your plants to your liking.

Removing some tall falowering tips

Cup of coffee in one hand and a few pinches in the other.


Pinched Finger Paint Coleus

Finger Paint Coleus after a pinch at the right time still looks stunning. Don't wait until it is too tall and starting to fall apart.

Coleus Finger Paint Sports yellow red and painted leaves

Finger Paint is a red and yellow bicolor coleus that sports some all yellow and some all red branches and leaves. You can pinch the variants so you don't end up with all one color.

Pinche Defiance the most popular coleus

Coleus Defiance growing in the full sun looks good after a careful pinch to reduce height and create a fuller stronger plant.


These plants respond quickly to frequent pinching. If you remove the tender tips you will see new shoots develop from the sides of the stems below the pinch point. How much you pinch really depends on how fast the plant is growing and what the desired ultimate height is. Often you just don't know where you want the plant height to end up. A better rule is to pinch regularly and get a feel for how fast it is growing between pinches. If you don't pinch at all the plant may split open or fall over  under the wet conditions we have been having this summer. This is especially true if it is an aggressive grower like coleus or the Persian Shield pictured below.

Time to pinch Persian Shield

Pinching and pruning are tasks that are learned by doing them. Once you get the feel for how plants respond you will have some knowledge that you can carry with you for a better gardening experience and something worth sharing with another generation of gardeners.

pinch Pentas seed heads

Once the butterflies have pollinated all the individual florets, the florets fall off just leaving seed capsules exposed. The seed is generally not viable so you might as well pinch the seed clusters off so the plant can develop new nectar rich flowers faster. Italians are known to be the best pinchers.

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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Butterfly Garden | Warm Season Gardening
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Rain Barrel - Hide and Seek

August 10, 2009 by Rick

This gives me ideas about how to add beauty to my rain barrels.

Here are some links: How to Build a Rain Barrel and Rain Barrel Guide

Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Environmental Awareness Education | U of F Cooperative Extension Service
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Organic Thrips Repellents

August 7, 2009 by Rick


Kaolin Powder Clay at Amazon for $9.00 per pound has been shown to confuse and or make feeding difficult for thrips insects that attack vegetables and ornamental plants.

Kaolin Powder Clay - 1 lb., (Frontier)

In an article, Thrips Research in Florida, details of how the clay might be used in combination with tea-tree oil, lemongrass oil or geraniol to significantly reduce thrip feeding and the viruses transmitted by the feeding.

In a previous article, Mama Mia - Garlic Extract Controls Garden Pests , we talked about how effective garlic extract is for us in production as a soil drench. Other Florida growers have found that weekly spraying one quart per half acre per 100 gallons of Alsa (garlic extract) controls thrips as well as synthetic chemicals on crops like crotons. The goal is to find enough alternatives to make control as safe as possible and still effective. We also want to not make thrips resistant to synthetic chemicals by overuse. We have made great strides recently. Let us know what you have found to be most effective against Florida pests.

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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Environmental Awareness Education | U of F Cooperative Extension Service
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Bulbine Popularity Soars

July 31, 2009 by Rick



You can see struggling turf surrounding the thriving Bulbine here (above). Jelly Burn Plant is getting very popular in landscapes throughout Florida.

Drought Tolerant Bulbine at Epcot Demonstration

Bulbine is easy to establish in the hottest months when other plants take more water and TLC.



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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Cold Hardy Perennial | Environmental Awareness Education | Florida Friendly Landscape | Turf Substitute | Warm Season Gardening
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Follow Us On Twitter

July 25, 2009 by Rick


If you believe what New York Times has to say then Twitter is a worthwhile way to share your message with other Floridians interested in successful Florida Friendly Gardening. So now we tweet. Email and RSS updates you can get from the tabs at the top of this page are great. A quick sentence to tell you our new information and a link if your interested can't be bad either. To each his own.

I follow P. Allen Smith for new garden plants and many other garden and nursery writers and bloggers for one line of text that links to trends, new ideas and new plants to try. You may want to follow Barack Obama, Larry King, Bono or Britney Spears. I hope you get our tweets.

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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Environmental Awareness Education
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Pot-in-Pot Updated

July 21, 2009 by Rick

In an earlier Post we detailed the Pot-in-Pot method of growing annuals and perennials in sleeves in the ground. This makes gardening easier and more successful in many situations and should be tried by Florida gardeners throughout the state for many different reasons. We listed 20 reasons on this previous Pot-in-Pot post.

A new twist is a method that makes it faster and easier to mulch for the first planting and for subsequent mulch applications. By inserting another pot in your pot sleeve before you mulch you make the mulching task easier. Adding this second pot allows you to spread the mulch quickly and to fill the second pot during the spreading process. Next you lift the inside pot full of mulch and spread it around in the bed. Now you have an empty sleeve to drop in your plant and complete you Pot-in-Pot landscape.

Post Hole Digging for Pot-in-Pot

Digging holes with a post hole digger is fast and just the right size. You can cut through roots with this tool and dig in difficult soil much easier than with a trowel. Root encroachment from surrounding trees and shrubs in your planting beds is a primary reason to use the Pot-in-Pot method.


Using standard size gallon pots you can nest them so you have a collection pot for catching the mulch in the next step for easy removal.

Removing much collecting pot

Removing the excess mulch in the catch pot is a breeze.

Slow Release Fertilizing Pot-in-Pot Plants

Don't forget the slow release fertilizer. This is salt based so read the label and apply every 3 months as directed. Don't overdose or you will kill the beneficial organisms growing in our compost rich potting soil.

Dropping in Pot-in-Pot a

Drop you plants into the empty sleeve and stand back and admire your work. Best of all, when it is time to change the flowers this will be a snap. Next time you need to apply a layer of mulch. Lift your plants and insert your empty catch pot. Apply mulch liberally and not so carefully. Lift and dump the pot-o-mulch. Reinsert your potted flowers and stand back and admire. Now you have 21 reasons to try the Pot-in-Pot method.

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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Container Gardening | Design | Drip Irrigation | Pot-in-Pot Landscaping
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